Thursday, September 06, 2012

Canada 101 for Immigrants (3/5)

Post 3:



OK, almost anything here can either be sent to you via email or in paper format. The only comment I had here is that you might opt to paperless bills (emails), but please keep in mind you NEED AT LEAST 1 PAPER COPY of your bills. You will need original bills as proof of residence (you can use your Internet/Phone providers bill, Electrical Company bill…etc.).
My advice is… choose paper bills, get your first bill, and then opt to paperless (for the environment and all that jazz).



Welcome to the extreme! Woohahaha!
Source: Volconovo
As you might read around the net about the Canadian winter and clothing…it is all about “layering”.
Officially, winter starts in December (might start snowing as early as end of October though), yet keep in mind that starting end of September the temperatures tend to go down to what we consider winter temperatures in the Middle East for example (between 5-18).

Talking about Winter, there are many options for clothing. My advice is to go for at least the below…
1-      You will need an undergarment trouser (a special trouser to wear under your normal trousers/jeans). There are many types, each are for a certain temperature range. Usually, they call them “Light weigh”, “Medium” and Heavy weight”. From my experience you’ll need 2 sets…the light weight and heavy weight;
2-      You’ll need 2 sets of gloves (one thin and another one very thick for playing in the snow or on very cold days);
3-      You’ll need ice-caps;
4-      You’ll need ear muffs (must wear when temp below -4C or your ears/hearing can be damaged over a longish period of time. I heard horrible stories about this!);
5-      You’ll need special boots (keep an eye on the temperature they are supposed to operate in. Check the shoes’ description);
6-      You’ll need a very thick Jacket. Jackets here are measured by the “Downing” in them. This is the density of duck feathers in them. The higher the better (the more expensive). The avg winter ones are usually 550. The highest I’ve seen are 850s I think.

Summer here is AMAZING! I always thought it is a waste to leave Canada during summer and go for vacation anywhere else.
Having said that, during August you will (for sure) need a wind-breaker and water resistant jacket. It usually rains a lot in August.

One last thing to say, don’t let people scare you about winter in Canada, if you embrace it… it can actually be a very nice experience… I loved it (for now :D )


·         Public Transportation
Public transportation here is very well maintained, and usually very clean and safe.
There are many ticketing options, but I’d recommend (for immigrants and people staying in Canada for a long duration) purchasing long term transportation cards.
You should be able to buy one from any Metro/under-ground station (even in some train stations).
Apply for a monthly card (at least monthly, you can even save more by going for yearly for example). Most cities have an option to purchase a card which can be used on Buses, Metros and even Trains (but will be a per zone thing. As in the further the card can take you the more it will cost).

·         Driving & Signs

Source: AncestrallinksBlog
OK, if you think you have this under control… YOU DON’T!
This turned out to be one of the worse experiences immigrants go through.

Now, if you are from a first world country (UK for example) moving here, you should be ok, as they will simply check your country’s driver’s license and issue you a Canadian equivalent (NOTE: each Canadian province has its own driver’s license, yet any of them are considered a “Canadian driver’s lic”).

For non-first-world-country citizens…. Let the games begin!
First advice, make sure you get your country-of-origin’s driver’s license translated either before coming or better off translate it in your country’s consulate here in Canada.
You then take this translation and go to the Driving License responsible committee or society (depending on the province you are in).
You fill in the application, show them you papers, and they will advise your case. I cannot elaborate much on this part as it is quite different from one province to another. You will generally go throw 2 stages:

a)      Written exam (electronic actually):
You must study properly for this. I saw a lot of people think they have this under control and fail… some fail more than 4 times! The advice is, get the books, read them. After that, check online for exercises and solve those.
b)      Driving exam:
A lot of people whom have been driving in their own countries think: “oooh, I have been driving for 10, 20, 30 year… this shouldn’t be a problem”.
Others say: “if I can drive in xxx (Cairo let’s say), I can drive anywhere”, and they just go for the exam without proper preparation. All those fail, and if you try the same, there is a high possibility you will fail too.

My advice is to take at least a few driving lessons with “wa7ed meda2da2” (experienced person) from a driving school company. They know what to watch out for.

Another advice is (I know this will sound odd): ”Follow the signs NOT the cars”!
Yes, in countries where driving is hectic and chaotic, people (like myself back home) tend to keep an eye on other cars to avoid their mistakes (i.e. people in Cairo for example only stop at an intersection ONLY if they “see” another car, and they don’t think they can out run the other car through the intersection!).
On the other hand, in Canada (contrary to Egypt for example), if you are driving and there isn’t a STOP sign looking in your direction at the next intersection, you should keep on driving through the intersection (DO NOT HIT BRAKES TO CHECK OTHER CARS AT INTERSECTION like what we used to do in Egypt).

Following the signs will take some time getting used to. But, if you get this one right, you are good to go!

For Ontario, everything you need to do about the driver's license is here including the handbook you need to study from for the written test:
Search online for other provinces.

·         Gas Stations & Parking:


Although I travelled a lot before coming to Canada, I never rented a car abroad. So, for me this was a new experience.
Unlike the Middle-East, most gas stations here are “Serve Yourself” stations (Free Service). Basically, you drive in, you get out of the car, insert your payment card (Visa or Mastercard), you then choose the gas type, and fill it yourself.
The first time I stood in front of the gas-stations pump I felt like “fala7 lesa tale3 min el gheet 3al Bandar”…I had no clue how to use the thing. lol

Another interesting thing I found out here(which I didn’t know) is that contrary to Middle-East Countries, gas prices change DAILY!

As for Parking lots, you basically get the parking spot number you left the car in, go to the payment machine, type the number, slot in your payment card, choose the duration, and then you should get a receipt at the end of the transaction. Depending on the province, you might need to leave this on the dashboard (Ontario province for example).

Medical Care:

This is something you should do as soon as possible. Apply for your provinces medical care as soon as you have a temporary driver's license or a bank statement that has actually been mailed to your address (or any other form of proof of address).
NOTE: A printed copy WILL NOT work!

Keep in mind that medical cards take a few weeks or months to get delivered to you. During this duration if (God forbid) you or your family need medical care, you will have to pay for it. And I mena PAY ( a friend’s wife had to go to the hospital, he paid more than 700 dollars!).
To offset this, you could get private medical insurance for a couple of months till you get the Government (provincial) cards.

Health cards are obtained at Ministry of Health and Long-term care outlets.
Link: . Check online for your provinces Medical care site.

… to be continued.

Mood: Numb :|

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Canada 101 for Immigrants (2/5)...

Post 2:


Before Arriving…

There is so much info about this part on the internet, I won’t go into any details. The only thing I can say is “read a lot, research a lot, ask as many people as you can”.

Note: You’ll have a check-list sent to you by CIC, make sure to keep an eye on that.

Arriving... don't worry it won't be this bad :)
As mentioned above the CIC does a really good job informing you about what you need to do when you arrive (via letters sent to the immigrant before they arrive…etc).

Here are a few notes (I either wrote down or noted from friends)…

Once at the airport, you will stand in the usual passports line and when you get to the officer, she/he will tell you where you need to go next to process your landing. You will then go to the immigration office to finalize your landing, and you provide them with an address to which they can mail you the permanent residence cards. I believe they also have an alternative system if you don't have an address yet. You can leave Canada without this card, but you must have it on you upon re-entry. It usually takes 4-6 weeks for processing. So, this entire process is done at the airport, and all you have to do is wait for the permanent visas to be mailed to you. For now, they will staple your permanent residency form in your passport.

They will then direct you to a "welcome" office where they will give you a tote bag :) and a lot of brochures and booklets with information about Canada and the things you need to do the next few days/weeks. Your final stop will be customs where you will give them your list of belongings (if you want to do that).

Past the airport (Take your passports with you to all the offices you will go to together with all your immigration documents)

A New Immigrant’s Initial Tasks (in a nut-shell):
-          Apply for Permanent Residency Card (PRC) at the arrival Airport (must have a local address in Canada for this), The PRC will be mailed to address in ~5 weeks.
-          Buy a Mobile and SIM card using your temporary landing papers (to prove you are a resident) and passport (till you get your PRC card). You need a Phone number as you apply for anything anywhere in this country.
-          Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN) card (are obtained at Service Canada office, It will take 10 days (you’ll get the SIN numbers for all your family members printed on a paper when you apply, the actual cards come later).
-          Open bank account with one of the big banks. Check the banks section in my posts for more info.
-          Go Check Schools, because per schools you’ll have to check rentals in that area. For more info, check Schools and rental sections in my coming posts.
-          Check for rentals near the schools you want your kids to reside in.
-          Go to your home country’s embassy, and translate your Home Country’s Driver's License (if you have one), this will come in handy when applying for a Canadian driver’s license. Check Driving section for more info.
-          Go apply for your Province’s Health Card: You’ll need a Canadian driver’s license or a Bank statements (or anything with your address on it). They need proof of address (a lease agreement will suffice).


$$$'s all about $$$
Source: CanadianBusiness
1-      Temporary Accommodation:

One of the first things to do before coming to Canada is searching for, and booking your temp. accommodation. By temp. accommodation… I mean: a place where you will stay for up to a month or so till you find a flat to move into.
Ask friends  or even rent something via TripAdvisor Rentals website or something of the sort.

Note: be careful when using your temp accommodation as you apply at different places (like when opening a bank account) as they will tend to send you mail to that address. This WILL be a problem if you are not careful. I had my Credit cards sent to a temp accommodation which I had moved out from!!!! (went well issue al 7amdo lelAh).

2-      First few Years Rental:

Immigrants tend to rent unfurnished flats (lowering the costs as much as possible when they arrive). The important thing is to try and get a flat somewhere central (do your homework via the net on this one per the city you will be in). By central I mean… near transportation (bus-train-metro), super markets, laundry,…etc.

Here are a few good resources:
Rentals and more :  

Things to check in a flat:
- Garage: reserved parking spot or entitles you to a discount on the monthly parking fee
- Heating: includes the price of heating in your rent
- Elec (hydro included)?
- Laundry available
- Gym or Pool?
- Elect type?
- Balcony?
- Open kitchen?
- Stove type (gas is nicer for cooking!)
- What appliances are included in the apartment
- Elevator?
- Maintenance
- Pets allowed? (may you’ll endup with dogs barking all night!)
- Limitation on number of people living in apartment?
- Deposit you pay when you sign the lease? (refunded when leaving)
- Note anything damaged or amiss and negotiate for repair or replacement

Things To inspect (if part of rental agreement):
-Water pressure
-Telephone outlets
-Locations of water main and fuse box
-Cable connection
-Screens on windows
-Heating and gas system
-Working appliances
-Security alarm system
-Washer and dryer

3-      Buying House:

Usually, after a year (or more) immigrants whom feel they are doing well (and have proper credit history – more details in banks section) tend to start searching for houses.
The reasons are obvious, besides investment, ownership, space… a major driver will be :You’ll get fed up yelling at your kids (if any) all the time wanting them to be keep quiet, as you don’t want neighbors complaining”.

Again, the same rule comes handy: “read a lot, research a lot, ask as many people as you can”.
I do advise going for a Real-Estate Agent as they make many things more clear (they don’t take money from you, they get their money from the seller…so no worries there!).

When buying a house, the rule of thumb is: “Location, location, location”… any real estate agent will tell you that. So, when comparing houses, give higher evaluation points for the location.

The buying process is quite straight-forward...

- Search for a house (with or without a Real-Estate Agent). Real-Estate Agent to sort out appointments for you;
- Get a Licensed Housing Inspector to check the house for you (provides you with a report on what needs to be fixed in a house). Real-Estate Agent can help identify one for you;
If you will go ahead with a specific house:
- Get a bank's Pre-Authorization on a loan that covers the house's selling price. MAKE SURE YOU SHOP FOR MORTGAGES (loans), as they differ from one entity or bank to another (check banks websites for rates and offers). I’d go for big banks (safer I think???);
- Give in a proposal (with conditions if you want certain things to be fixed or left for you to use...etc). Real-Estate Agent can help;
- After all formalities (usually a few proposals and counter proposals will take place before you get the seller to sign on the final proposal).
- Get final loan (mortgage) approval from bank;
- Agree on a specific Notary with Seller (where you and the seller will sign the contract). Again, Real-Estate Agent can help;
- Notary will call you a few days before Contract signing to meet up and sign a few papers (and checks).
- Meet at Notary and sign Contract. You might be asked to settle a few bills that the seller had paid for yet you will be benefiting from;
- 10 to 20 days later, you’ll get your contract papers via mail
- Plan your move… check for moving companies for rates, and try to avoid moving the 1st 2 weeks of July as those are the peak weeks.
Canada’s top Real Estate Database (list of houses being sold across Canada):

…to be continued.

Mood: Still Hungry :S

Canada 101 for Immigrants (1/5)

Source: AKCanada
So, It has been almost a year since I immigrated to “O Canada”, and what a year it has been!
I mean the amount of things I went through over this year, I could easily fit them into like 3 years or something.

There was so much to learn, understand, and experiment with… and there is still so much to come.

You’d be amazed how simple things can really stress you out. Things like bus tickets, schedules, gas payments, rental procedures, automated parking lot payment booths, traffic signage, customs, taxes… and so many other things.

Before I arrived here, I never imagined being stressed out about such (what seemed like trivial) things. But, put those along the fact that you barely know anyone, you have no job, your family is with you, no schools, lack of resources, and a final twist… lack of language (French)… the stress will be high.

The Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Ministry ( has done a very good job in terms of trying to give you an idea of what to do, where to go, and whom to contact as a new immigrant (via their website, pamphlets, information at points of entry into the country). But, what an immigrant really lacks (from my experience) was the (what seemed as) simple stuff I mentioned before.
This led me to think… why not write a few posts about the day to day things we have to go through as new immigrants (till they become a normal part of our daily life).

Below are the topics that'll be covered per post (this one being Post 1)…

Post 2:
-          Before Arriving
-          Arriving
-          Accommodation
o   Temporary Accommodation
o   First few Years Rental
o   Buying a House

Post 3:
-          Bills
-          Clothing
-          Transportation
o   Public Transportation
o   Driving & Signs
o   Gas Stations
o   Parking
-          Medical Care

Post 4:
-          Telecoms & Internet Access
-          Banks
-          Taxes
-          Schools

Post 5… The Finale:
-          BEWARE Of Historical and Language Issues!
-          Norms & Misconceptions About Canada
Hope you’ll find them useful.

Mood: hungry!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Twitter Move!

I've decided to move to Twitter for short, on the spot posts (Tweets). If i have any long topics i might come back here (yet to be seen).

My Twitter name is "Fadfadation" (never saw that one...did u?!).

Mood: Feel like trying something new...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Nail in Al- Ahram’s Coffin... The LIARS!

Unlike the usual me, I decided to read Al Ahram newspaper online today (Al Ahram is a once respected official Egyptian news agency that has been accused over the past 40 years of being a mouthpiece for whomever is ruling Egypt).

To my surprise I found this article.

In an obvious and very pathetic attempt to give some credibility to Hussein Tantawi  (Field Marshal of the Egyptian Army and head of the Egyptian Supreme Council that is ruling Egypt currently - whom revolutionaries have been demanding his resignation and the withdrawal of the Army from politics) the article in one part stated the following:
وتقول في موضع آخر أن الجيش المصري قبل طنطاوي كان متأخرا بــ30 عاما عن إسرائيل وفي2005 وقت كتابة الوثيقة كان الجيش المصري قد سبق إسرائيل في الكم والنوع بثلاثة اعوام.”

The document states (referring to the Wikileaks article they are supposed to be quoting from) that the Egyptian Army before Tantawi was 30 years behind Israel, and in 2005 the Egyptian Army is actually 3  years ahead of Israel’s Army in terms of quantity and quality

Of course since I almost choked when I read this, I went and checked for myself and here is what I found in one of the cables:

5. (S/NF) Decision-making within MOD rests almost solely with Minister of Defense Field Marshal Tantawi. In office since 1991, he consistently resists change to the level and direction of FMF funding and is therefore one of the chief impediments to transforming our security relationship. During his tenure, the tactical and operational readiness of the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) has degraded.

The@ #&$ pathetic useless lairs!
I mean; even if what they stated was in Wikileaks (which I seriously doubt as i didn't find it), wouldn’t it have been more professional (from a journalism point of view) to state the above section too?

When will they learn that Egyptians won’t take this rubbish anymore?!
I3lam monafek!

Mood: pissed off!